He was the Steward of Gondor. His role: to take care of the country until the King returned. Denethor served his people well for many years, as did his ancestors for many generations, but when the battle against Mordor intensified, his lost his nerve. His pride made him seek places he shouldn’t, using the Palantir Sauron controlled, which led him to despair. The struggle against Evil went on, but only on his terms. He would not let the King return, and when the battle seemed lost, he gave up and left his people without a leader. In the end, he failed the trust placed in him.
The parable today is a parable of ingratitude and pride. As we hear this story, we should remember that the vineyard is the land of Israel and the tenants are the people, led by their religious leaders. At the time this was told, Jerusalem and most of the Holy Land was in ruins, destroyed by the Romans after the great revolt of 66-70. Their lack of vision and perspective, their ingratitude, led them away from the message of the Prophets over the years, made them shut out voices that bothered them, like Jesus’. The people this story was pointed at suffered the fate that Jesus spoke of: they were exiled and the Land was given to others. It was a reminder to the original listeners that they shouldn’t take God for granted and that they needed to return to God what he had given them. God had commissioned them for service to the world; and failing to remember that had consequences.
As we look at this story today, I’m not going to harp on the negative aspects of the story. Our love for our God and our desire to serve our God shouldn’t be the result of fear of what may happen to us if we are ungrateful: I don’t think that scaring people into believing in a loving God makes a lot of sense. It’s kind of crazy to say: “We have a great wonderful God who loves us, who created us, who knows us better than we know ourselves, who gave Jesus to die for us so we might have eternal life. So if you don’t love him back, watch out.” However, as tenants of the vineyard, we are called to be mindful of the harvest. We are called to be aware who have provided the wonderful world, the wonderful nation, the wonderful people we live with. Everything we have comes from God, and everything we have still belongs to God. We are only stewards of God’s world; we are tenant farmers in the vineyard. We are called to respond to Him in love and gratitude for all that he’s given us.
We are also team players. None of us are superstars, all of us depend on others for life and all of us should depend on each other to help us hear the message of the Gospel to grow in faith. We should remember that Christ didn’t come to an individual in the Gospels, he came to a people and all the works we hear described in the Gospels were done in public, for a people. The origin of the word Eucharist is the Greek word Euchariston, Thanksgiving. Today, listen to the Eucharistic Prayer for the language of Thanksgiving in it. That is the prayer that starts: The Lord be with you/and also with you. Lift up your hearts/we lift them up to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God/it is right to give him thanks and praise. We pray this every week and it does us good to pay attention to what we’re saying..
The master of our vineyard isn’t a distant figure, a micromanager, or a tyrant. Our master is one who gave us life for us, provided this meal for us to give us strength and blessing, taught is the way of the Kingdom. Every week we as a people are called to respond in love to the one who first loved us.